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The Power of Music in Expressing Children's Emotions by Chantelle Alvaro

KidsMatter, the Australian Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative (see notes that the development of children’s emotional skills includes the ability to recognise, express, understand and manage a wide range of feelings. Acquiring these skills is essential for a child’s ability to develop and interact successfully with others. Children who learn to manage their feelings may learn to recognise the negative effect that their heightened emotions (screaming, crying loudly, etc.) may have on other people in their company. Their ability to control these emotions enables them to stay calm and enjoy their experiences, as will the people in their company. From this, children may develop a positive sense of self and are more likely to be confident and curious learners.

With music at the core of the Mini-Maestros curriculum, we understand that music is far more powerful than spoken language alone. Given that our attendees are still developing their basic linguistic skills to a level in which they can clearly express themselves, music allows us to assess their emotions from their physical reaction to what they hear, thus providing us with a the greatest insight into how they respond to our instruction in a collaborative environment.

On any given day, it is possible that we experience myriads of emotions. Perhaps the child is feeling angry, and expresses his or her emotions by stomping, or perhaps he or she is excited and shows us this through a display of jumping. As their carer, I believe it is important for us to ask: “How would you like to move today Oscar?” – and Oscar might respond with jumping. Taking it further, we can then say: “Yes, I love jumping too when I’m feeling happy and excited”, and this kind of statement allows them to understand how we either approve (or disapprove) of their emotional response to the situation.

Opening each lesson with the ‘Hello Song’ we are able to assess how the children are feeling and respond with our varied repertoire. If the children are angry, a lullaby such as “Bye Lo, Baby Oh” has a calming factor that may assist in soothing a child’s tension. Whilst in another situation, the children may be feeling deflated or unmotivated, and a lively activity such “Carnivalito” allows them to ‘feel the beat’ and use their bodies to invigorate themselves. As carers, we need to be alert and in-tune with their emotions, and then respond with music.

It is interesting to note that multiple studies have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm, joy, sadness, fear and anger to pass from person to person. Children especially pick up on their carers’ moods. If we are stressed, and distracted, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead. Music is a powerful tool in assessing and teaching children and adults how to deal with their own emotions.

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